Thursday, February 23, 2012
The Time Is Ripe for Making Our Victories Permanent
By Press Action
The strikes in France that shut down oil refineries and strategic fuel terminals in October 2010 are examples of what serious activists in the United States could be doing today to disrupt the day-to-day operation of industrial capitalism, according to environmental author Derrick Jensen.
Speaking on Michael Ruppert’s “The Lifeboat Hour” radio show on Feb. 19, Jensen said “it is possible to shut down the system through nonviolent means.”
“The French recognized that oil is the black blood of the economy,” Jensen said. “Instead of doing random sit-downs, they blockaded oil refineries. They occupied the strategic reserves.” During his conversation with Ruppert, Jensen emphasized that it was not his intention to belittle the work of the Occupy Wall Street activists in the U.S. “I’m not trashing Occupy,” he said.
While not as sustained as the blockades in France, Occupy protesters in the U.S. have successfully shut down the Port of Oakland in recent months and disrupted activities at other West Coast ports. Neither Jensen nor Ruppert mentioned these port shutdown actions. According to the Occupy the Ports website, the coordinated West Coast port shutdown effort on Dec. 12, 2011, aimed “to disrupt the economic machine that benefits the wealthiest individuals and corporations at the expense of the vast majority of the people of this planet.”
In France, workers ended their strikes at the oil refineries and fuel terminals without getting what they wanted. The workers were protesting President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. The tactic of blockading refineries and fuel terminals ultimately failed. Sarkozy’s bill to raise the minimum and full-pension retirement ages won final approval in parliament in late October 2010.
But the workers and other protesters learned from the blockades that they could have severely crippled France’s industrial economy if they had continued the strikes and had succeeded in fending off French police and paramilitary forces.
Despite the disruptions and fuel shortages, a large percentage of the French population remained supportive of the protesters. During the height of the strikes, when the largest number of French people were the most inconvenienced, only 54% of respondents to one poll said they were against the blockade of oil refineries.
While the French have grown accustomed to disruptions in their daily lives caused by strikes that routinely hit various sectors of the economy, the blockade of the refineries and fuel terminals was a much bolder and more militant action than even the French are used to witnessing. The fact that only 54% of respondents opposed the blockades bodes well for future militant actions being able to sustain a large level of public support.
According to Reuters senior correspondent Brian Love, the reason why French people are more supportive of strikes and direct action than Americans and the British is that they “are uncomfortable with ‘Anglo-Saxon capitalism’ and tend to shun the live-to-work philosophy.”
Back in the U.S., Jensen told Ruppert that “the problem with the Left or resistance, or whatever we want to call it, is we haven’t figured out what we want.” However, if activists in the U.S., particularly environmental activists, can establish a clear set of goals, there is a chance for success, given the extremely serious financial troubles facing the corporate state. “It is possible for our victories to become permanent,” Jensen said. “At this point, they don’t have the money” to continue rebuilding industrial infrastructure and systems that activists may succeed in dismantling, he said.
During the show, Ruppert also asked Jensen how he views the actions of the Weather Underground in the early 1970s. “One of the good things about the Weather Underground is that they manifested a rage that many people felt,” Jensen said. However, on the negative side, the Weather Underground demonstrated there “needs to be a firewall between above-ground and below-ground organizations,” he said.
Jensen also mentioned what he calls the “Gandhi shield” and how certain pacifists will say the names Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King again and again real fast to keep all evil thoughts at bay in response to anyone who suggests that violence should even be considered. But in reality, these types of pacifists come from a position of privilege and are not forced to deal with the violence of the state on a daily basis like so many people around the world. “You can’t take violence off the table because the people in power are already using it,” Jensen told Ruppert.Share